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Using technology to enhance cross-cultural academic partnerships

A cooperative learning experience in the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences has thrived during the pandemic, reaching new levels of technology-based learning. In the fall 2020 semester, WVU Sport and Exercise Psychology undergraduate students worked with peers at Halmstad University, in Halmstad, Sweden, as part of the SEP 272 (Majors-Only) course, Psychological Aspects of Sport.

“Through collaborative online discussion boards and group presentations and assignments, and joint Zoom-workshops facilitated by WVU and Halmstad graduate students, the fall 2020 course represented the most advanced and intensive collaborative learning experience for CPASS Sport and Exercise Psychology students thus far in our partnership with Halmstad University,” Scott Barnicle, program coordinator and teaching assistant professor said.

Now in the fourth year of the faculty alliance, Barnicle explains the process. “The planning begins roughly six months in advance of the fall course. Skype meetings, numerous e-mails and drafts of syllabi and assignments, and in-person meetings at academic conferences in previous years, have all lead to the positive and effective partnerships which I have with my Halmstad peers,” Barnicle said.

The class planning progression is a team effort, with faculty members at each institution having equal input on the course agenda. According to Barnicle, the partners included graduate students for the first time. “GAs had the responsibility of designing and facilitating Zoom-workshops on selected cultural topics for our undergraduate students. One WVU Sport and Exercise Psychology doctoral student worked in collaboration with two masters-level graduate students at Halmstad University to develop these Zoom-workshops, which are the first-of-their-kind in our field and were a tremendous addition to our class,” he added.

Although COVID-19 changed the classroom environment at both universities, Barnicle says that it did not influence their cooperative efforts. “My peers and I have been working jointly from across the Atlantic Ocean for the past four years, so the COVID-19 situation did not have much of an impact on our class, from a WVU-Halmstad perspective. My peers and I have been working via Skype and Zoom for the past four years and the pandemic did not change our strategy,” Barnicle said.

The cross-cultural and multi-national collaboration with Halmstad University over the past decade features evolving teaching techniques and tools which were implemented in fall 2020. “I look forward to the continued growth of the WVU-Halmstad partnership and am excited to lead the study abroad trip to Sweden in spring 2022, marking our sixth such trip,” he added.

Alex W., SEP student, reflects on the unique learning opportunities for students.

Dr. Barnicle’s SEP 272 was an interesting class, due to the course content and international collaboration with Halmstad. This collaboration allowed me to learn about a different culture and sport psychology at a different university, plus, it gave me the opportunity to share my university and home.

The seminars held by WVU and Halmstad graduate students were an engaging part of this class. During these seminars, we learned more about the field of sport psychology, as well different perspectives from Halmstad students. Discussion boards (which were on Halmstad’s Blackboard) were another engaging component of this class that allowed for interaction about course content and a shared interest in sport and exercise psychology. The collaboration with Halmstad makes this class so unique. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to experience and participate in this course.

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